Saturday, September 17, 2016

What is restorative justice?

Yesterday, I received a call from a woman who works for the Victim-Offender Dialog Program. She will be the facilitator for our family. She will help all of us to navigate our pain and emotions as we go into the prison and meet with one of the men responsible for Matt's murder.

I know that for me, this is a very important part of my healing process. I began this particular piece of my healing journey a couple of years ago. I was asked to share with lifer inmates the catastrophic
impact and devastation that the murder of our Matt has caused myself and our family.

I must say that I was eager to share with these murderers just how their deplorable acts of violence has destroyed so many lives, including their own. I wanted them to feel the anger seething from my soul. I longed for them to see and feel the deep sadness and trauma that they are responsible for.

What I did not anticipate, at all, was the empathy and compassion that I felt for each of them as they shared. While listening intently to these murderers share their crimes and the devastating ripple effects that they continue to realize.  I was not prepared for the remorse that they expressed. The acknowledgement of their responsibility  for these heinous acts of violence shocked me. I was moved by their honesty and deep regret.

I was confused by my feelings and my heart. How can this be happening? The men are killers!

 I can literally hear Matt reminding me that people make terrible mistakes. We have consequences for each and every decision that we make. These men are living with the consequences of their actions.

I am not some saint who can forgive and move on. I am sad, angry, and devastated by the murder of my only son. I still wake up wishing, hoping and praying that it was all a nightmare.

 But, reality hits swiftly,  Matt is gone!  He was shot in the head and died as a result of drugs, alcohol, and violence. All, with no regard for life. Nothing that I say or do can change any of this. So, I am left with....where do I go from here?

I am choosing to try and get some sort of understanding as to why people decide to resort to violence and murder. I know that drugs is a huge part of the reason. I am being lead by something greater than myself, to meet with these men and now to meet with the man involved in Matt's murder.

This man turned himself, the shooter and the driver of the car into the police. Yes, it was nearly two weeks after Matt was killed. I do believe that this man had a moment of clarity and truly realized the enormity of what he and the others had done. No, this admission does not give him a free pass. He is living with the consequences of his horrible decision on Sept. 1, 2008. He has asked to meet with us.

Every day I have to find ways to live with the enormity and consequences of others decisions. I don't get the opportunity to have conversations with my son. I am left here to deal with the confusing internal dialog that happens constantly within my mind and heart.

 I ask God daily for guidance and strength. I believe God is answering my prayer. My job is to remain open to what is being offered.

Many days I want to shut down. I don't want to have to feel this pain in my spirit.  I want to have hope that things and people can be and do better. I know that this is possible. I am one of the examples. I know of thousands more too.

 So, what am I saying? Do I believe that change and a better life can ONLY happen for people whom have not killed another?

The internal conflict that I have is real.  I am clear that only God can heal this. God, is restoring me daily. I have to have faith and believe that God is restoring others, as well. This, to me, is restorative justice.

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